Reading progress update: I've read 8 out of 421 pages.
I think this book is going to be fun, despite some clunky phrases:
The fact that Boyle had been an alchemist for most of his life was to prove an embarrassment to the scientific establishment in later years because of the need to present him as the first true chemist. His book The Sceptical Chymist is today regarded as the seminal work that severed the link between chemistry and alchemy but is not just an attack on alchemy. Indeed among Boyle’s papers when he died there was one he had partly written called Dialogue on Transmutation and Melioration of Metals in which he described a well-documented transformation of base metal into gold performed by a French alchemist, and which he said had been witnessed by several eminent people.
The content promises to make up for the odd writing:
Boyle himself published a paper in the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions of 21 February 1676 entitled ‘On the Incalescence of Quicksilver with Gold’. This reports a ‘mercury’ which, when mixed with gold, causes it to react and evolve heat. Lord Brouncker, President of the Royal Society, attested to the efficacy of Boyle’s new ‘mercury’ in that when it was mixed with gold powder on the palm of his hand, he felt the heat it generated.
Really? He mixed this in his hand? That description made me shudder, but then, I guess it hasn't been that long since mercury-silver amalgams have been used in tooth fillings.